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Plane Bomb Investigation; TSA Reverse Course on Flight Rules; Why Wasn't Suspect's Visa Revoked?
Aired December 29, 2009 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Tuesday, the 29th of September -- of September, are you kidding me? Here are the top stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Hello? End of the year?
CNN has photographs of the underwear bomb that targeted Flight 253. That small amount of grainy powder could have blown the plane out of the sky. Britain had barred the Nigerian plane bomb suspect from the country, but he still had a U.S. visa. Why wasn't it revoked?
And could you spot a terrorist on an airplane? That's the job of Federal Air Marshals. We will show you what they look for in the air.
Good morning, everyone, I'm Tony Harris and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
First, the investigation into the Christmas day attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner. Here is what we know right now.
Yemen says plane bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in the country twice this decade, most recently from August until December of this year. And an al Qaeda branch in Yemen says the terror attempt on Flight 253 was retaliation for U.S. airstrikes. The Obama administration will not confirm military operations in Yemen. President Obama wants a review of the entire terror watch list system. That's because the bomb suspect's name didn't appear onto the most critical list.
And Canada is limiting carry-ons for flights to the United States. Passengers will only be able to have medicine, small purses, cameras, coats and laptops.
That is a broad look at the Flight 253 investigation. Specifics now from CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These pictures from an FBI bulletin obtained by CNN show 76 grams of PETN in an anatomically shaped sheath tucked into a pocket stitched into underwear. It was allegedly worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to avoid detection during screening. There is scorching from the attempt to set off the bomb and one photo shows the triggering device, a melted syringe with plastic film-like material and tape. Preliminary analysis indicates it contained ethylene glycol, an ingredient in coolants and anti-freeze.
A claim of responsibility from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called it an advanced bomb and touted the fact that it defeated American security. A U.S. counterterrorism official says the statement appears to be authentic, and it seems credible that the group had some involvement in the attempted attack. The government of Yemen where the al Qaeda affiliate operates says Abdulmutallab visited the country at least twice, once four or five years ago and again from last August to early December.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You do worry that next time the lesson they'll take from this is, next time what we need is two or three guys on each plane and several planes so that we can have some assurance at least one of them does blow up. And so I'm not sure I would take a whole lot of comfort from it.
MESERVE: U.S. officials say the alarm raised by Abdulmutallab's father more than a month ago was not specific or credible enough to put the young Nigerian on a terror watch list. But critics say there was a failure to connect the dots, including his use of cash to purchase a one-way ticket, that he didn't check luggage and perhaps most importantly, the British decision to deny him a new visa last May.
RANDY LARSEN, THE INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: I just don't believe that we'll ever have a scenario where we'll get more advanced warning of an attack on America. It's hard to imagine that this will happen, and yet we failed to put that information together.
HARRIS: All right. Jeanne Meserve joining us now.
And Jeanne, would the body scanning technology have picked up a bomb such as this?
MESERVE: Well, you know, the technology has been very controversial because it shows so much body detail, and so they have intentionally blurred up the crotch area in some of them. I talked to an aviation expert last night, someone who's very, very familiar with these technologies, and asked him this question, and he said he thought they would work.
He said the millimeter wave, which works sort of like radar -- it bounces waves off of you and an image comes back -- he thought that would pick up some sort of anomaly in the crotch area that would be detectable to screeners. And when it comes to backscatter, which is more like an X-ray, he said they might have to change the settings there to bring back a little more detail in the groin area, but he thought if that was done, that would also work.
Obviously, one thing they're doing that might not be effective is a pat-down. It would have to be a pretty intimate pat-down to catch this one.
HARRIS: What about something even more low tech or equally low tech? What about sniffer dogs? Is there any discussion of adding more sniffer dogs?
MESERVE: Well, you know, they have put a lot of explosive detection canine teams in the nation's airports since these events on Christmas Day. And if they're trained to sniff out this particular explosive, they could be effective. But, of course, they usually use them around things like luggage, not so much around people directly.
I don't know how close a dog would have to be to a person to get a hit. I'll have to ask that question. Good one.
HARRIS: All right.
Jeanne Meserve for us.
Jeanne, appreciate it. Thank you.
MESERVE: You bet.
HARRIS: And checking the wire now and the day's other big stories.
President Obama is ordering a top-to-bottom review of the U.S. terror watch system. It is comprised of about eight lists, each maintained by a different agency. The would-be plane bomber's name was in a broad terror database, but not on the no-fly watch list. The president interrupted his Hawaiian vacation to assure Americans he is on the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Well, Republicans say the Obama team has bungled this terror episode. They point to the president's absence from public view and his homeland security secretary's initial comment that the system worked.
Next month, Congress will go to work to merge two health care bills into one. Right now, the House bill contains the public option, while the Senate version does not.
Now two high-ranking members of the House have said they could vote for a bill without the government insurance plan. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina says he would do so as long as the bill creates more competition for insurance companies and contains costs. The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also said the House could drop the option if there are other methods in the bill to keep premiums down.
North Korea says it has detained an American who illegally entered the country Christmas Day. Activists believe he is Christian missionary Robert Park from Arizona. They say Park slipped across the border with letters urging North Korea's leader to resign and free all its political prisoners. The U.S. has not been able to get any information on Park's fate since it has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. Park's parents are speaking out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HELEN PARK, DETAINED MAN'S MOTHER: He keeps saying we have to act in faith immediately. He's always in my heart and in my prayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The State Department says the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang has offered to try to get additional information.
And back to our top story now. As quickly as the TSA trotted out new security initiatives following Friday's foiled terror attack, it reversed course. What's up with that?
CNN's Sandra Endo has more on how passengers are faring with the new flight rules.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bags checked and rechecked. Tighter security for international travelers headed to the United States.
RATI LAVANIG, AIRLINE PASSENGER: They said for an hour we couldn't have anything on our laps.
ENDO (on camera): Was that difficult for you, especially traveling with a small child?
LAVANIG: It was a little difficult because right at the end, he wanted some milk, and I couldn't give it to him.
ENDO (voice-over): The Transportation Security Administration beefed up measures Saturday after the Christmas Day incident in Detroit. But just two days later, CNN has learned the TSA is rolling back the restrictions, allowing flight crews to decide whether to impose what's called a one-hour rule on international flights. That rule required passengers to remain seated for the last hour of their flight with no access to carry-on bags, removing everything from their laps.
Flight attendants would have to escort people to the bathroom, ,and the in-flight entertainment system which shows the flight map of the plane would be disabled. The TSA would not address why the rule was relaxed, saying only that the agency is constantly reviewing and revamping security measures.
A former TSA official says the new guidelines make sense.
TOM BLANK, FMR. TSA OFFICIAL: I think the TSA is simply acknowledging that the people that are best suited to make those decisions are the flight crew, operating under the pilot in command.
ENDO: The tougher rules come at a time when the airline industry is struggling, first from the sagging economy, severe winter weather this holiday season, and now an attempted terrorist attack. The tighter security measures for international travelers could put another squeeze on air travel.
SHANE DOWNEY, NATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVEL ASSOC.: The economy is dependent on travel, and if we can keep people up and traveling, and getting to where they need to get to, that benefits everybody.
ENDO: Some international travelers say their choices are either to fly or stay close to home.
LAUREN WALTERS, AIRLINE PASSENGER: You have to fly if you want to get somewhere. Everywhere else takes too long.
BARRY LINEBACK, AIRLINE PASSENGER: It's very necessary. I think everybody felt pretty safe and secure with those kinds of things going on. There was no grumbling. I didn't see anybody grumbling about it. Everybody cooperated.
ENDO: A much-needed attitude, since travelers are facing longer security lines at airports.
HARRIS: All right. And Sandra Endo joining us live at Washington's Dulles International Airport.
Sandra, good to see you.
If these new restrictions are discretionary, what are passengers on international flights saying? For example, is the one-hour rule being imposed, that you have to be in your seat for the last hour of your flight?
ENDO: Well, Tony, we're really hearing a mix of different stories. We talked to international travelers coming in from Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam. They all said the one-hour rule was, in fact, enforced on their flights.
But ten we talked to a man coming in from Dubai this morning who said his flight was easy, it was a breeze, with no extra added security measures. So it really seems to be on a case-by-case basis and very different, depending on the flight -- Tony.
Sandra Endo for us. Sandra, appreciate it. Thank you.
And, of course, many of you have been through airports across the country since Christmas Day. Here's our question: Are you experiencing long delays or security searches? We want to hear from you. Leave us your comments on my blog at CNN.com/Tony.
The terror suspect raised so many concerns in the United States and overseas. Why did he still have a valid visa at the time of the attack?
And Jacqui Jeras is tracking winter weather in the Southern Plains, wild winds in the Northeast. We will check in with Jacqui in just a couple of minutes.
We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Like the September 11th hijackers, the accused plane bomber held a U.S. visa. Why didn't the State Department revoke it once the man's father raised security concerns?
Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty is in Washington for us.
And Jill, the first big tip-off was a visit by the suspects father to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. What did he tell them?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. He was concerned. He went to the U.S. Embassy. He actually had reached out to the Nigerian security people as well, but he went to the U.S. Embassy, said he was worried that his son was under the influence of religious extremists, and that he believed that his son was in Yemen.
So, what happens at that point? The embassy writes up what's called a VISAS VIPER cable, and they include the information that the father gives in kind of a shortened form.
That goes off to the State Department in Washington. It also goes off to the National Counterterrorism Center here in Washington.
They look at that information and they decide, quite surprisingly, not to pull his visa. They decided that there was not enough information for that, Tony.
And as I was speaking with the State Department today and some other officials, they point out that this is kind of a passive system. There, in the embassy, they collect that information, they send it on, but they don't always put two and two together. So, the information that the father gave apparently did not reach the level of concern that they might have had, and so they say, no, we'll let him keep his American visa.
HARRIS: Yes. What did -- what happened to the information?
DOUGHERTY: Well, the information goes into a giant database. And one of the problems is, that information, the fact that he had a visa, that it was a two-year multiple-entry visa, was available to basically anyone at the State Department or at NCTC. Anybody had access to that, but they would have to put two and two together. They'd have to connect the dots and say, father has raised these concerns, this guy has a visa, he could conceivably come to the United States, maybe we ought to do something.
So he was put on various lists, but, again, he wasn't stopped.
HARRIS: But the British refused to reissue a visa to him. Is that correct?
DOUGHERTY: Correct. There was a visa that he had, the suspect had, from the U.K. He had it to study in the U.K., stopped studying. He went away for about 14 months and then he applied for a new visa.
And they looked at the information and found some of it apparently bogus, or at least misleading. They decided, you're not going to get a visa. They refused him a visa. He goes on a list and he cannot get into the U.K..
So, the question is, was that information given to the United States? Do they share that type of information with the U.S.? Certainly they share a lot of security information. And the State Department still does not have the answer to that question.
HARRIS: Again, you know what, Jill? It seems to point out that there is a lot more art than science to intelligence work, doesn't it?
DOUGHERTY: Absolutely, Tony. I think that, again, it's early in this. But what it seems to be is that everybody is in their little silo, and they do what they're supposed to do.
They follow directions just like good bureaucrats. And yet, there's not kind of somebody above that who's looking at it and saying, ah-ha, well, we should connect these dots. So, as this goes on, I think we're going to find out more about it.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ordered an immediate investigation or reevaluation of how they give visas, their consular services, et cetera. So we'll be following this very closely.
HARRIS: OK. Jill, appreciate it. Thank you.
You know, it may be time for you to divorce your bank. Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis tells you how it could lead to lower fees and better interest rates.
HARRIS: And checking our top stories now. Iran's influential parliament speaker says those who protested during the holy observance of Ashura should be shown no mercy. He calls the demonstrations an insult to Imam Hussein, whose death is commemorated by the observance. Police arrested hundreds of people, including several opposition leaders, during the anti-government rallies.
Appalled and disappointed, that's how Britain's prime minister is describing his reaction to the execution of a British citizen in China today. The 53-year-old was condemned for smuggling nearly nine pounds of heroin into the country. Relatives say he suffered mental illness and was tricked into carrying the drugs. Repeated requests for clemency by China were denied.
And one of the officers shot in last week's ambush attack in Washington State has died. Deputy Kent Mundell was wounded while responding to a domestic violence call. He is the sixth officer to be killed in Washington in less than two months.
HARRIS: OK. A new year, a good time to freshen up your finances.
If you've had it up to there with your bank's fees, pesky penalties and lackluster service -- I like that -- Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis wants you to make a resolution for 2010.
And Gerri, you're telling us to join a credit union. Why is that a good move?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, OK. Let's take a look at how they work first.
Credit unions, unlike banks, Tony, are nonprofit. For you, that translates into lower fees and better rates.
That's because profits tend to go back to the members in the form of lower rates and fees rather than to, say, stockholders. Credit unions also don't pay taxes, so there's a lower cost of doing business.
But let's look at just what kind of rates you can get from a credit union versus a bank. We got this info from Datatrac, an independent research firm.
A savings account at a credit union will yield you about .41 percent. At the bank, you're getting just less than -- actually .3 percent. On a one-year CD, a credit union will give you 1.45 percent, while a bank pays 1.15 percent.
See the trend here?
Finally, mortgage rates, these are pretty much neck and neck, with the bank interest rate just a little bit lower than the credit union. But you can see there are benefits here using the credit union.
Keep in mind this isn't a perfect world. Credit unions are just as vulnerable to a bad economy as banks. So, so far this year, 23 credit unions have failed. And remember, there can be membership fee here that can run you $5 to $25 each year -- Tony.
HARRIS: Wow. Credit cards from credit unions, are they a better deal?
WILLIS: Check this out from Pew Charitable Trusts, information on how they compare.
Interest rates on credit union credit cards are 20 percent lower than bank cards. Over-limit fees, $19 lower than at banks. Penalty APRs, 18 percent at credit unions, versus 29 percent at banks. And 25 percent of credit union cards charge a fee to transfer a balance from another card, but 88 percent of banks do.
So that's not to say a credit union credit card is for everybody. If you have a rewards card that you really love, that may work better for you at a bank than a credit union -- Tony.
HARRIS: How about this one -- can anyone join a credit union?
WILLIS: Sure. Well, becoming a member, it's usually based on where you live, who you work for, what you do for a living, what religious community you belong to. And there are credit unions that service the military, teachers, firefighters, policemen and people who work for specific companies.
To find out if you're eligible to join one, go to creditunion.coop and make sure that credit union is insured by the National Credit Union Administration. That is the equivalent of the FDIC in banking terms.
It's the protection for you. You want to make sure your money is insured, and it will be up to the same limits as a traditional bank.
And, of course, if you have any questions, send them to me at Gerri@CNN.com.
HARRIS: Gerri, appreciate it. Thank you.
Concerns about Yemen, the link to the terror suspect and al Qaeda.
HARRIS: Terror aboard Northwest Flight 253. New details are emerging about the botched Christmas Day attack.
CNN now has an FBI bulletin that shows how specially-rigged undergarments concealed the alleged explosive. You can see burn marks here from the attempt to detonate the package.
And here is the mug shot of the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The 23-year-old Nigerian citizen has been formally charged with trying to blow up the Christmas Day flight. Three hundred people were aboard.
And an al Qaeda group in Yemen is claiming responsibility for the failed bombing. Federal investigators have not confirmed the claim, but CNN has learned that two of the al Qaeda members were former detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval prison.
The nation's first homeland security secretary says the would-be plane bomber does not deserve any of the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Tom Ridge told CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" the attempted terror attack on Flight 253 highlights the ongoing communications gap between government agencies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The old Cold War mentality was need to know. The new war, the new paradigm, the new enemy requires a need to share. And when the president said today he wants to scrub the watch list and see what the gaps were, understand precisely why the total picture was not available to the terrorist screening center so that this person could not have boarded that plane.
Why the State Department didn't revoke his visa immediately is beyond belief, in my judgment either. But at the heart of this is it's a clash of cultures. It's an institutional challenge. DHS can only act on information it gets, and I'm not sure they had all the information at its disposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: OK. Ridge says he is not surprised by reports that two former Guantanamo Bay detainees had joined al Qaeda's Yemen branch. That group claims it's behind the attempted bombing. The Bush administration released the men to Yemen in 2007.
Everyday people stepping up and doing extraordinary things, and probably averting a massive air tragedy in the process. Last night, on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," anchor Erica Hill spoke with passengers on Northwest Flight 253, firsthand witnesses to the foiled terror plot.
Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI HASKELL, PASSENGER: Everything happened, it seemed like, in less than a minute. We saw smoke. We then saw flames going up the side of the plane near the seat where he was sitting.
At that point, two people, one from behind him and one from the side of him, tackled him to the ground, and that's pretty much the last time we saw him. We were pretty freaked out by the fire, so we weren't paying attention to that. We were paying attention to the fire going up the side of the plane.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Understandable.
And we just saw the picture there. There's a still photo of the suspect on the plane. But I know Richelle, you believe there may actually be video of the incident?
RICHELLE KEEPMAN, PASSENGER: Yes, that was very strange. There was a man that when we first took off I noticed about 10 seats ahead of us to the left-hand side, he had a camcorder. And I didn't think much of it. I thought maybe this was his first flight and was just excited. And then when the actual incident occurred, I looked up and he was the only one standing and filming the entire thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: You know, we are getting more details about the 23-year- old suspect, a Nigerian national who portrayed himself as an aspiring college student, yet admits to being an al Qaeda understudy.
CNN's Mohammed Jamjoon is live with this from Dubai, with more on the suspect's background.
What are you learning, Mohammed?
MOHAMMED JAMJOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, what we know so far is that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came to Dubai in January of this year and was here until three months ago.
In that time we were told by school administrators of Wollongong University -- that's an international university here -- that he enrolled in several business classes and a master's business program. He did not complete those courses. He was here until about three months ago. Then we know that he went to Yemen. We don't know if he went directly to Yemen from Dubai, or if he stopped somewhere else. He went into Yemen about August 2009, he was there until December. That we know from the Yemeni government.
But we don't know much more beyond that. In fact Yemen's information minister spoke today about what little they know about the suspect.
This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN AL-LOZY, YEMENI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): Yemen did not receive any additional information about him besides what we know already, that he is a terrorist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAMJOON: Now, what little else we've been told by Yemen's government about the suspect while he was in Yemen, is that he had been in Yemen once before between 2004 and 2005. He was enrolled in an Arabic language program while he was there. Supposedly he got his visa to go back this year in order to enroll in that program again. Whether he did or did not, we don't know at this point. But beyond that, not a lot yet known by the Yemeni officials as far as what he was doing there -- Tony.
HARRIS: Mohammed, one quick follow here. The U.S. Military is concerned, the President of the United States, the Obama administration is concerned about Yemen.
Why does it appear to be the case that Yemen is attracting so many militants? Why is it such a dangerous place?
JAMJOON: Tony, so many people will tell you that Yemen is acting now as a magnet for terrorists and for militants, that it's a hub for that kind of activity.
Let me try to set the scene a little bit. Yemen is a very poor country in a very rich neighborhood. A very rich neighborhood of a lot of oil-rich countries. Yemen is just south of Saudi Arabia. It's a very dangerous place. It's seen as very wild, has very porous and open borders.
Now, they don't just have an al Qaeda problem. OK, they do have that and they have a resurgent al Qaeda there throughout most of the country. They also have a separatist movement going on in the south of the country. And they have a rebellion going on in the north of the country on the border with Saudi Arabia. Take in all these factors together and the weakness of the central government in Yemen, you can see how these militant groups would thrive. And you can see how Yemen's government would not be able to really combat them.
Now, we're seeing that the U.S. has been helping them, has been giving them aid, has been helping them with intelligence. We're seeing regional governments in the neighborhood are trying to help. But it might be too late. So many analysts that I've spoken with in the past few weeks have said Yemen doesn't now just look like it's collapsing, it looks like it has collapsed and that's what's really concerning everybody -- Tony.
HARRIS: Wow. All right. Mohammed Jamjoon for us in Dubai. Mohammed, good to see you. Thank you. Great information.
We are taking a closer look at the explosive the suspected terrorist is accused of sneaking on Flight 253. Why is PETN so difficult for security officials to detect?
HARRIS: Well, some good news for people who've been laid off or had their hours cut in the last year. Employers are getting more confident about hiring going into 2010.
OK. Alison Kosik is in New York with details. Alison, that's great news. Tell us more, please.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is great news, especially if you're one of the millions who don't have a job right the now, Tony. I mean, think about it, more than seven million jobs have been lost since the start of the recession. But we may finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I want you to look at this. Last year just 14 percent of employers said they'd ramp up their full-time permanent positions going into the new year. But this morning we got news -- that figure increased to 20 percent. Sure, it's not huge, but it's still an increase and shows managers are getting more confident, keeping a bigger number of workers on their payrolls.
And you know things are really bad when you're happy about this number, Tony. Career Builder's 2010 jobs forecast also shows that just 9 percent of employers plan to decrease their head count in 2010. That's down sharply from last year's 16 percent. We'll take what we can get, right?
HARRIS: Yes, we'll take it. Let me try this one on you. Look, Alison, I've managed to hang on to my job, working harder over fewer hours in the workweek, right? So what are my chances of getting a raise?
KOSIK: Your chances, Tony, of getting a raise are definitely better than they were last year.
There's a poll out by one compensation firm that says more than half of companies that froze salaries in 2009 plan to thaw them in the coming months. And a third of those that reduced or cut their 401(k) matches are going to restore them next year. A majority of them could restore them at original levels and that's because companies -- they're feeling a lot better about their financial situations. Still, the raises themselves aren't going to be huge. At most firms they aren't likely to be higher than 3 percent.
Now, there are some professions that do have a better chance of getting a pay bump than others. Robert Half International ID'd 10 fields where pay overall is steady or rising. And they include tax accountants, network administrators, medical records clerks and executive assistant. Essentially these are people who have skills that are in demand because they serve a particular strategic purpose. And if you want to see more of this list, you can of course visit CNNMoney.com.
I want to take a quick look at the numbers right now, Tony. The Dow right now up about 8, the Nasdaq dipping a little low, down about 3 -- Tony.
HARRIS: Well, I don't see hot-shot cable anchors on that list. We probably make too much money as it is.
KOSIK: Yes, you do.
HARRIS: Alison, appreciate it. I do. That means you, too. Alison, appreciate it. Thank you.
HARRIS: OK. So you've got some gift cards this holiday. You better use them or you will lose them, that's guaranteed. The story is at CNNMoney.com. Let's check the top stories. North Korea says it has arrested an American who entered the country illegally on Christmas eve. It hasn't been confirmed but the description matches that of 28-year-old Robert Park from Arizona. A South Korean website says Park snuck across the border to spread God's message and encourage North Korea to open its border and release political prisoners.
Johnson & Johnson is now recalling all Tylenol arthritis caplets sold in the 100-count bottles with an easy-open cap. The recall comes after some users reported a moldy smell that caused nausea and stomach pain.
And doctors say his steel badge saved his life. Tennessee police officer Joshua Smith is lucky to be alive after he was shot at point blank range by a driver he pulled over on Christmas Eve. Smith says the bullet knocked the wind out of him but he escaped without so much as a scratch.
HARRIS: Federal officials say the Nigerian plane bomb suspect tried to blow up a U.S. airliner with PETN. It is the same explosive shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to detonate on an American Airlines flight back in 2001.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson shows us this little powder with a big punch.
SYDNEY ALFORD, EXPLOSIVES EXPERT: It's a fine (INAUDIBLE) powder so it doesn't compress down very well.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're looking at is a bomb in the making. The white powder is the explosive PETN. Six grams of it, just a tiny fraction of what alleged Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab intended to use.
ALFORD: If it goes off, I expect it (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTSON: At a remote farm in the English countryside we're getting a lesson about PETN's destructive force. Everything about the test is real. PETN is dangerous.
Not taking any chances. That bomb is going to go off in a few seconds. In a moment, we'll see the force of the explosion.
ALFORD: People like to exaggerate.
ROBERTSON: A little earlier, in his lab, explosives expert Sydney Alford detonates just a few grains of PETN. The chemical in PETN is hard to make or get your hands on. But although it's an explosive because it's not volatile, it's perfect for a terrorist on a long-haul flight.
ALFORD: If I were carrying a pocketful, sure it can be packaged just neat powder in my pocket. It's bang-up would be the last of my worries.
ROBERTSON: Sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN the working assumption is that the alleged bomber, Abdulmutallab, may have had some 80 grams of PETN.
ALFORD: That will probably be, if it were dry, closer to 80 grams.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Is that enough to blow a hole in an aircraft?
ALFORD: Certainly. It's enough to blow a hole.
ROBERTSON: What we understand he was wearing these explosives in the sort of groin area. Can you imagine that you could in some way fit these into -- sew them into a set of underpants?
ALFORD: Certainly you can. Yes, yes, yes. I've done it. I've done it. No problem at all.
ROBERTSON: It looks just like sugar, just like salt, and it's easy to imagine how this can be stitched into clothing and hidden around the body. And that's what makes PETN such a challenge for airport security officials to detect.
(voice-over): Alford believes the only reason lives were spared this time is because the alleged bomber's lack of training meant he couldn't detonate the bomb. And that means he probably didn't make it.
ALFORD: On the one hand, he's being given, shall we say, a high- value substance. And on the other hand, it seems to be left to his own efforts.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Is it easy to make for the average person?
ALFORD: The average person, probably not.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Back at the farm, Alford's crude six- gram bomb is about to show what PETN can do in the hands of professionals.
(on camera): Very impressive. It's gone through?
ALFORD: It may have burnt away.
ROBERTSON: This is what six grams of PETN does to something that's twice as thick as an aircraft fuselage. Just six grams. That's pretty damaging. And that was a tiny amount, easy to sort of hide about a person.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The alleged bomber had much more than six grams, and he smuggled it on board an airliner. But he didn't have the expertise to detonate it.
Nic Robertson, CNN, at a farm in Wilshire, England.
HARRIS: So does the U.S. have any way of detecting this explosive, and if so, why aren't we using that technology? I posed those questions to a former top administrator for the Transportation Safety Administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BLANK, FORMER DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, TSA: We've known for a number of years that PETN is a threat. We've known that explosives at the checkpoint and our capability to detect them is a vulnerability that needs to be closed. yet we see the GAO issuing a report earlier this year saying that TSA has tested but not deployed some 10 checkpoint technologies that could be used to help defeat this kind of a threat.
HARRIS: Are the technologies any good? I mean, testing and those technologies being any good are two different issues, right?
BLANK: Well, what we know is that the whole body imagers, the X- Ray technology is very good. It will find organics. It does a superb job for the Military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does a superb job at the border for customs and border protection. And, TSA, while they are now beginning to deploy it, needs to increase the urgency with which they're moving in that direction.
HARRIS: In your view, what's been the holdup in further deploying it?
BLANK: Well, there's two things. One is resource fatigue, because it is slightly more expensive than what we're putting to it now. And the second is that we've given too much credence to the ACLU and privacy considerations and those objections which spreads not only from the checkpoint imaging technologies, but, it also inhibits our capability to do information-sharing amongst global law enforcement and intelligence agencies that may well have produced enough additional derogatory information to move this Nigerian gentleman from the list that he was on to a higher threat level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Watching passengers and eavesdropping on conversations. Behavior screening at airports, could it have prevented the terror attempt?
HARRIS: Well, the H1N1 virus was one of the biggest newsmakers of the year. It all started in Mexico, back in the spring. That's when CNN's chief medical correspondent introduced us first to a little boy known as patient zero.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the number of cases of swine flu build around the world, everyone has been on the hunt for the source.
GUPTA (on camera): We've long suspected that the origin of swine flu may have been on a pig farm, and now we're headed towards one, about two hours north of Mexico City. We think we may find where this virus started.
We may also find him - Edgar Hernandez. People believe he is "patient zero," the first patient to contract the virus.
GUPTA (voice-over): La Gloria - it's a village where everyone knows someone. I showed this motorcycle rider Edgar's picture. His name is Frederick and he offers to take me.
GUPTA (on camera): Don't drop me. OK.
So after hours of searching and hours of driving, we're finally going to meet the little boy that everyone is calling "patient zero."
GUPTA (voice-over): There he is - Edgar Hernandez, a little five-year-old boy who got so sick.
GUPTA (on camera): Did you have a headache? Dolor la cabeza?
EDGAR HERNANDEZ, FIRST H1N1 PATIENT (through translator): He had a headache and - and throat (ph).
GUPTA (voice-over): He was brought to this clinic where he was diagnosed as possibly the first case of swine flu of this outbreak.
So where did it come from? Edgar's mom think she knows.
GUPTA (on camera): A lot of people are saying that the swine flu came from some of the pig farms. Do you believe that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that what she is (ph). (INAUDIBLE).
GUPTA: There's no question we stumbled onto a controversy here. The citizens of La Gloria really believe that the pig farms in the nearby areas got so many of their citizens sick, so we decided to pay those pig farms a visit.
GUPTA (voice-over): The industrial pig farm is huge and owned by American company Smithfield Foods. People in town say they believe this is the source of the outbreak.
GUPTA (on camera): We finally made our way to the hog farm, but the Mexican Department of Agriculture and the company itself said they've done testing and the tests have come back negative. They simply wouldn't let us through security, the simply wouldn't show us the pigs.
GUPTA (voice-over): This medical mystery now only half solved. We know who may have first contracted swine flu, we just don't know where he got it.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, La Gloria, Mexico.
HARRIS: Since the spring the CDC has determined the virus didn't come from pigs but a influenza strain called H1N1. The CDC developed a vaccine to slow the now global pandemic. The CDC estimates, in fact, that there have been between 34 million and 67 million cases of H1N1 in the U.S. this year. Approximately 60 million Americans have received the vaccine. Worldwide approximately 11,500 people have died from H1N1.
And here's what we are working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.
Former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend join mess to talk about the ins and outs of the various terror lists. What's the difference between them and what gets you on each one?
Plus, the astronomical bonuses from Goldman Sachs. Just one year after taking Federal bailout money, CNN's Maggie Lake takes a look.
HARRIS: Could you spot a terrorist on site? It's job number one for U.S. Air Marshals who are now out in mass after Friday's incident at Detroit International.
CNN's Brian Todd takes a hard look at the science of behavior screening.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Homeland Security Secretary answers a key question about the failed Christmas Day terror attack aboard a U.S. passenger jet. Were there U.S. Air Marshals on board?
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: They're posted randomly on different flights and as far as I know on this flight there was not one.
TODD: But another official at the Department of Homeland Security says since that incident Friday, the number of air marshals on flights has significantly increased.
Current and former air marshals tell us if there had been a marshal present they don't believe Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would ever have gotten on board that plane.
As depicted in CNN's previous reporting, marshals are trained to blend in but to be forceful almost instantly. The marshals we spoke with said one of the most important things they do is monitor the behavior of passengers. Experts say on board this includes observing passengers as they go to the bathrooms. Rafi Ron is a former Israeli air marshal who now has his own security consulting business.
RAFI RON, FORMER SECURITY CHIEF, TEL AVIV AIRPORT: We can watch the behavior before he actually gets into the bathroom. We can see what the person carries with him when he goes into the bathroom. We can look at how much time he spent inside.
TODD (on camera): Air marshals and other security experts tell us that suspicious behavior can be detected long before suspects get on board a flight. They say if you know what you're looking for you can find it here in the terminals at waiting areas, at ticket counters and at security checkpoints.
(voice-over): One former air marshal told us, he'd often discreetly move around waiting areas at gates, watching passengers and even eavesdropping on them. Most he said could quickly be eliminated as suspects, but some he'd have to keep track of. Those who traveled alone, who seemed nervous, focused on something other than their immediate surroundings. And those who have what he called the "thousand yard stare." But Ron says in Israel, they take extra measurements.
(on camera): But it's not just security people who have to be trained in behavior recognition, right?
RON: That is correct. Actually our most important asset when it comes to detection of suspicious behavior are all the employees that we have all over the airport. The presence of security personnel and law enforcement people is extremely limited.
TODD: So you're talking ticket counter people.
RON: I'm talking ticket counter people. I'm talking about the janitors who are cleaning the restrooms. I'm talking about the people at the parking lot. I'm talking about people on the curbside. These are people that are so familiar with the regular activities and will immediately recognize irregularities.
TODD (voice-over): Rafi Ron says these are employees who can see passengers in areas of the airport where there may not be security cameras or security personnel. He makes a strong point that this is not racial profiling we're talking about, but behavioral profiling -- facial movements, body language, not a person's ethnicity or gender.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.